‘Pain & Gain’ Movie Review – Brainless or Brilliant?
Comedies, whether fair or not, are extremely hard to judge. A lot of people write-off the genre as being anything more than just for laughs. While understandable to some degree, there have been hybrid comedies that tap into the more serious sides of a story. In other words, I believe comedy can rise above and beyond the laughs. Unfortunately, Pain & Gain is not this kind of movie. Michael Bay’s action-comedy mix is thoroughly entertaining, but “entertaining” is one of the only positive adjectives.
For those unfamiliar, Pain & Gain is about a trio of meathead bodybuilders sick of being poor. Feeling like they deserve better, and fueled by the illusion of “The American Dream,” Daniel (Mark Wahlberg), Adrian (Anthony Mackie), and Paul (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) decide to kidnap a slimy millionaire (Tony Shalhoub). Their ultimate goal is to extort as much money as possible from him.
Of course, things don’t go according to plan. It’s up to you to see all the crazy things that ensue.
Bay’s follow-up to the Transformers franchise is certainly interesting. Interesting in a good way, too, because it’s definitely more of a character-study than previous films.
The “character-study” aspect of Pain & Gain is one of the strongpoints. It’s based on a true story – something I caution to pay too much attention to – so the characters are rooted in some kind of “truth.” Of the three, “The Rock” is definitely the funnest to watch. In a film full of wacky twists and turns, “The Rock” embodies the comedy the best.
Although the character aspect is different, Pain & Gain is “brainless,” similar to most comedies and Bay’s filmography. Even when you take out the preconceived notions about comedy and how thoughtful a comedy can be (something I disagreed with above), the film is just too absurd.
On the one hand, this is a problem. However, the unique, hyperactive style does still succeed in making the film thoroughly entertaining. This is why Pain & Gain is such a difficult film to judge. If you’re looking for a film that is different, here you go. If you are looking for a film that is funny and entertaining, here you go. If you are looking for a film with substance…look elsewhere.
The conclusion to Pain & Gain is a mess. While the style is a mess (arguably in a good way), the endgame lacks substantially. You want to root for these guys, but is that what we should be doing? I hardly believe Bay is trying to make a satire out of “The American Dream,” but I can see this argument. He doesn’t really pull it off, though, because it doesn’t resonate throughout the entire movie.
Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain may be 2013’s most unique film. This makes it better than the lower-tier action movies that have dominated January through March. Unlike the other movies this year and Bay’s previous works, it cares a lot more about the main characters. However, this is problematic when you look at what they stand for. Sure, it may be a satirical look at capitalism, consumerism, and so forth, but I can’t give Bay that much credit. I think I’m just looking for more justification for a movie that entertains but doesn’t ask or answer anything worthwhile.
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